COMMAND DECISIONS – LANGSDORFF AND THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE

Langsdorf

The Battle of the River Plate is one of the best remembered naval
engagements of the Second World War, with pictures of the
burning wreck and memories of its tragic commander’s suicide
seared into the public consciousness. The first major naval battle
of the Second World War, it was fought on 13 December 1939
between two apparently disparate forces: on the German side
Admiral Graf Spee, one of the much vaunted ‘pocket
battleships’; on the British side, three smaller and seemingly
much less powerful cruisers, Exeter, Ajax and Achilles.

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This compelling new study concentrates on Kapitän zur See Hans
Langsdorff, commander of the Graf Spee, written from his point of
view. The story of his mission at the start of the Second World War,
to prey on merchant shipping, is graphically retold and the
command decisions Lansdorff made are the primary focus of this
gripping narrative.
Author David Miller examines in vivid detail the factors Langsdorff
had to consider as he assessed the situation of his ship and chose
his course of action. Operating alone, thousands of miles from
home and with no prospect of support, Langsdorff had to grapple
with the enormous burden of a lone command. The grave mistakes
he made are ruthlessly exposed, but this fascinating re-examination
of his actions and his leadership does nothing to diminish his
reputation as a brave and honourable officer.
David Miller has had seventy books published on subjects ranging
from Richard the Lionheart, to U-boats and the Battle of Waterloo.
He currently lives in Devon and is available for interview.

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